Ancient Earthworks of Eastern North America  
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Serpent Mound
Serpent Mound PPT
PLACEMARKS
Discussion   |   Data:   Circles   |   Squares or Rectangles   |   Octagons   |   Mounds
Marietta Quadranau and Fall colors.
Marietta Quadranau Mound, 39.425361 N., 81.461056 W.

The Archaeological Context of the Earthworks

Monuments mark the rise of civilizations world-wide. The earthen mounds of Eastern North America are part of a long-standing monument tradition. In the Americas, mound construction starts at an early date, well before the pyramids of Egypt were constructed. Watson Brake in northern Louisiana, dated from 5400 to ca. 5000 BP, is one of the oldest-known, large-scale mound sites in North America. Watson Brake's dating placed mound construction in the Mississippi Valley at near 2,000 years before well-known Poverty Point, previously thought to be the earliest mound site in the United States. Watson Brake consists of an oval formation of 11 mounds from three to 25 feet tall connected by ridges to form an oval near 900 feet across. With Watson Brake's discovery and dating, pre-agricultural, pre-ceramic American societies were shown to be more complex than previously thought.

The oldest civilization in the Americas arose along the Pacific Coast of the Central Andes, where mound construction began by 5,100 years ago. Dr. Ruth Shady Solis, et.al., (2001) published new radiocarbon dating, altering views about early Andean coastal prehistory. Shady, reported dates between 2627 BCE and 2020 BCE at Caral. New research and radiocarbon dating published in Nature demonstrates that by 3100 BCE monumental buildings were found in the Supe, Fortaleza, and Pativilca valleys, not just at Caral, indicating complex societies with a network of 20 separate major residential centers creating monumental architecture and communal buildings.

Impressively large Caral, the earliest known urban center in the Americas, has a central zone containing six large pyramidal mounds surrounding a huge plaza (readily visible with Google Earth™ at -10.89125, -77.52235). The largest mound measures 60-feet high and 450-by-500 feet at the base, plus the adjoined sunken circular plaza. Patterns evident in orientations of Initial period monument complexes, with various complexes in a valley often following the alignment of the main pyramid, suggest a practice of astronomical determination of orientations and the transfer of the orientation of the larger complexes to smaller ones. This pattern indicates an early beginning for the cosmological ordering of monuments and built space by American cultures. Recent study at Buena Vista evidences an early date for Andean astronomy.

Early Monumental Architecture on the Peruvian Coast:
Evidence of Socio-Political Organization and the Variation in its Interpretation
.

Huaca del Sol latitude = atan(1/7)

For thousands of years, North, Central, and South American monumental complexes arose and grew. The earthworks in Eastern North America represent a long chronology of cultures creating monuments. The rich record of earthen constructions equates to many thousands of years of history, spanning from Watson Brake and Poverty Point to large Adena mounds, to the Hopewell culture's florescence of geometic works, to numerous, diverse expressions, and to Monks Mound and the many mounds of Cahokia—the culmination in size of both earthen construction and settlement in prehistoric Eastern North America.

ancient earthworks

Google Earth™ Placemark Files featuring overlay site maps.

Portsmouth Ohio map with earthworks overlay

Assessing Evidence of Geospatial Intelligence in the Americas

Ancient Earthworks of Eastern North America — Some Collected Data
The size data herein is focused on the Middle Ohio Valley Hopewell and Adena earthwork and mound sites, particularly the largest monuments. More details are found in the linked pages.
Circles
Monument
Form, Dimensions, Feet
Source
Baum Large Circle
1320
Romain 2000
Circleville Inner Circle
1056
Romain 2000
Circleville Outer Circle
1188
Marshall 1987
Frankfort Large Circle
1480
Romain 2000
Frankfort Small Circle
720
Romain 2000
High Bank Circle
1052
Thomas 1894
Hopeton Circle
Ellipse, 1018 x 960
Thomas 1894:474
Liberty Circle
1700
Squier and Davis
Liberty Ellipse
866
Thomas 1894
Milford Circle
1400
Romain 2000
Newark Great Circle
Ellipse, 1189 x 1163
Thomas 1894
Newark Octagon Circle
Near true, 1059 x 1050  
Thomas 1894
Seal Circle
1050
Romain 2000

Seip Large Circle

1530
Romain 2000
Seip Small Circle
750
Romain 2000
Shriver Circle
1000
Romain 2000
Works East Large Circle
1480
Romain 2000
Works East Small Circle
760
Romain 2000
Hopeton Earthworks survey drawing.
Squares or Rectangles
Monument
Dimensions
Bearings
Sources
Anderson Work
940 x 770
 
Anderson 1980
Baum Square
1123 x 1110.5
59.5, 150.6
Thomas 1894
Cedar Bank Works
1400 x 1050
 
Squier and Davis 1847
Circleville Square
841.5
 
Marshall 1987
Frankfort Square
1040
 
Romain 2000
irregular, 962 x 791
71.83
Thomas 1894
850
 
Squier and Davis 1847
1110 x 1106
47.17, 137.32
Thomas 1894
irregular, 1510
 
Romain 2000
Marietta Small Square
1040
 
Romain 2000
Milford Square
950
 
Romain 2000
880
 
Romain 2000
926, 928
41.88, 132.22
Thomas 1894
Newark Square
47.53, 138.24
Marshall 1987
Seal Square
854 x 852
 
Thomas 1894
1140 x 1139
79.23, 170.43
Thomas 1894
Winchester
1320 x 1080
 
Squier and Davis 1847
Works East
1040
 
Romain 2000
Newark Octagon survey drawing
Octagons
Monument
Dimensions
Diagonals
Bearings
Sources
Newark Octagon
1708, 1720
51.45
Thomas 1894
Newark Octagon
2898.5
   
Marshall 1987
High Bank Work  
1272, 1250
127.13
Thomas 1894
High Bank Work
2147.2 
Marshall 1987
earthen mound
Earthen Mounds
Monument
Diameter
Height
Width
Length
Sources
240
65
   
Woodward and McDonald 1986
877
68
   
Woodward and McDonald 1986
 
10
180
132
Squier and Davis 1847
Cedar Bank Mound
 
4
250
150
Woodward and McDonald 1986
220
30
   
Squier and Davis 1847
 
13
170
Squier and Davis 1847
 
33
180
500
Squier and Davis 1847
 
30
160
240
Squier and Davis 1847
Frankfort Mound
 
20
   
Squier and Davis 1847
Works Referenced and Further Readings

Ames, Kenneth M. 1999 Myth of the Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology 52(5).

Anderson, Jerrel C. 1980 A Recent Discovery - The Anderson Earthwork. Ohio Archaeologist 30(1):31-35.

Hively, Ray, and Robert Horn 1982 Geometry and Astronomy in Prehistoric Ohio. Archaeoastronomy 4:S83-S20.

Hively, Ray, and Robert Horn 1984 Hopewellian Geometry and Astronomy at High Bank. Archaeoastronomy 7:S85-S100.

Jacobs, James Q. 2000 Early Monumental Architecture on the Peruvian Coast: Evidence of Socio-Political Organization and the Variation in its Interpretation.

Jacobs, James Q. 2001 Possible Geodetic Properties and Relationships of Some Monumental Earthworks in the Middle Ohio Valley, A Preliminary Inquiry.

Lepper, Bradley T. 1995 Tracking Ohio’s Great Hopewell Road. Archaeology 48(6):52-56.

Marshall, James A. 1979 Geometry of the Hopewell Earthworks. Early Man Spring:1-5.

Marshall, James A. 1987 An Atlas of American Indian Geometry. Ohio Archaeologist 37(2):36-48.

Marshall, James A. 1992 Azimuths of Prehistoric Circle Openings and Parallel Walls of Easter North America Examined for Astronomical Orientation. American Astronomical Society. 5 June 1992.

Mills, William C. 1914 Archaeological Atlas of Ohio. The Ohio State Achaeological and Historical Society.

Moorehead, Warren K. 1922 The Hopewell Mound Group of Ohio. Field Museum of Natural History Anthropological Series Volume VI, Number 5. Chicago.

Morgan, William N. Prehistoric Architecture in the Eastern United States. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Romain, William F. 2000 Mysteries of the Hopewell. The University of Akron Press.

Saunders, Joe W., et.al. 1997 A Mound Complex in Louisiana at 5400-5000 Years Before the Present, Science 277(5333):1796-1799

Shady Solis, Ruth, Jonathan Haas, and Winifred Creamer 2001 Dating Caral, a Preceramic Site in the Supe Valley on the Central Coast of Peru. Science 292:723-726.

Shepherd, Henry A. 1887 Antiquities of the State of Ohio. John C. Yorston & Co., Cincinnati.

Squier, Ephriam G. and Edwin H. Davis 1847 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Thomas, Cyrus 1894 Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology. Twelft Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. Washington.

Walker, Amélie A. 1998 Earliest Mound Site Archaeology 51(1).

Williams Leon, C. 1980 Complejos pirámides con plaza en U, patrón arquitectónica de la costa central. Revista del Museo Nacional, Lima 41:95-110.

Woodward, Susan L. and Jerry N. McDonald 1986 Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley. McDonald and Woodward, Blacksburg Virginia.

2012.01.14 - Thanks go to Doug Weller for pointing out my typo, BCE vs. BP, thus I had dated Watson Brake 2,000 years older than the actual date.

 

Ancient Earthworks of Eastern North America 
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